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Give me "NFL Draft picks I'd least like to meet in a dark alley for $200 Alex." A'Shawn Robinson is one scary looking dude. He also happens to be one of the best defensive tackles to enter the NFL Draft in 2016. That's why Bob Quinn jumped at the chance to grab him the second round, where most analysts didn't think he would be.
For me this is my personal favorite of all the picks the Lions made in 2016. I like what Robinson can bring to the table as far as his ability goes. It's easy to form your own opinion on a player when you've watched some tape and read some scouting reports, but to really get the best knowledge you have to go to the guys who live and breathe Alabama football. To do so, I went down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After I grabbed a beer at the annual Weindorf festival, I met up with Roll Bama Roll's Erik Evans to talk A'Shawn Robinson. Here's what we learned.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on A'Shawn's time at Alabama?
RBR: A'Shawn was a joy to have in Tuscaloosa and was penciled in as a day-one starter while still in high school. He did not let the faithful down. His leadership was exemplary in the locker room and on the field. It's hard to overestimate the value that one guy can have in the intangibles department, but whatever "it" is, he has "it." He and Reggie Ragland turned a group of talented lolly-gaggers into a ferocious championship unit. His entire persona is also a fan favorite that Detroit fans will love -- BA Baracus comes to mind: He is a man among boys and relishes being the youngest grandpa to ever draw breath. In a sport of mean, bad asses he wants to be the meanest one on the field; and he usually is. As I told my friends in Detroit, "A'Shawn is the only player in the draft meaner than Detroit"... and I live in Memphis. #SisterCity
POD: What is A'Shawn's biggest strength?
RBR: I was going to rewrite this in its entirety, but Ole' Whistlebritches sums up A'Shawn's strengths and weaknesses in far more prosodic terms than I could ever muster:
"Robinson can do anything defensive coaches have asked of him, playing anywhere from nose to five-technique. He has the rare combination of freakish strength and tremendous athleticism that are the trademarks of Pro Bowl defensive linemen, and his versatility is a prized facet of his game. One of the more powerful linemen to come through Alabama in some time, his blows resonate and he has the ability to rag doll elite caliber blockers when lined up one-on-one. Rarely beaten by less than a double-team, Robinson has tremendous length and is one of the most reliable tacklers from the Tide's 2015 championship roster. One simply does not hope to break an A'Shawn tackle...one can only hope to survive it intact. Unlike his running mate Jarran Reed, Robinson is equally at home clogging the run and terrorizing passers. He reads quarterbacks in the way teenage girls read sparkly vampire novels, and he pursues extremely well for a man of his height and breadth."
POD: What's his biggest weakness?
RBR: Again, excerpted from OWB's draft analysis:
"There are a few improvements Robinson could undertake to make him an even better player at the pro level than he was in his three years of collegiate play. Chief among them is his tendency to remain too upright through contact. He would do well to drop his pads more often and get low, something that would make him an even more devastating tackler and block-shedder. Sometimes his leverage is excellent, and at other times, it is sub-par, causing him to lose steam and stalemate match-ups he should easily dominate. Though he aggressively rushes the passer, his attack is somewhat one-dimensional in that it relies heavily on the bull rush and straight-line tactics. Robinson needs to diversify his pass rush skill set and introduce variety to gain the upper hand in even more battles."
In short, A'Shawn needs to clean up his technique, add a few more skills to his pass rush repertoire, and not settle for battling his guy to a draw, particularly when he capable of winning those battles.
POD: Will Robinson make an immediate impact with the Lions?
RBR: As in high school and college, Robinson is a day-one starter in the NFL. He takes the best of Suh (aggression, athleticism, power, straight-line pass rush) and Fairley (ability to eat up the run, big body commanding double teams, nastiness without the penalties of Suh) and rolls them into one terrifying package. Is he as polished as Nkemdiche, for instance? Does he have the pass rushing chops of Shaq Lawson? No. But he is an exceptional talent with room for coaching while still making a tremendous immediate impact. Lions fans and coaches will love his lunch pail attitude, lazy locker room types will live in fear, and he will be a versatile terror in the NFC North for as long as you pay him and as long as he continues to grow. There are few things the athletic, hateful Robinson cannot do for a team badly in need of difference makers on the defensive line. This is a great pick, a great city for him, and we wish him all the best. Finally, you should know that while there are many A'shawn's, he has his own nomen etched forever in Alabama lore: He is THE'Shawn.
I'd like to thank Erik Evans and Roll Bama Roll for their help today. If you love Alabama football, make sure you follow Erik on Twitter and read up on the Crimson Tide at Roll Bama Roll.